Workers poured and shaped concrete sidewalks Tuesday up and down Ohio Street, as officials announced the $11.3 million project is ahead of schedule and should be operational by the end of the year.
The 1.4-mile stretch of Ohio Street is being transformed from a street built for truck traffic beginning at Michigan Avenue to a picturesque, two-lane parkway that connects downtown with the outer harbor at Fuhrmann Boulevard.
Biking and pedestrian paths, improved lighting and landscaping, and granite curbs are being installed, some due to be completed in spring 2015. Electrical capacity also is being upgraded.
“Ohio Street is moving along quickly,” said Mayor Byron W. Brown, noting 40 percent of the project had been completed in the first two months, putting it further along than expected.
Brown and Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, said public investment in infrastructure along the Buffalo River and Lake Erie is providing a boost for private investment. They said that’s already beginning to happen along Ohio Street, with much more anticipated.
“We’re seeing the public investment in infrastructure driving a lot of the private sector investment. This is an exciting time,” Brown said.
Buffalo RiverWorks, across the channel from Ohio Street’s River Fest Park, is building an entertainment and sports venue at the inactive Wheeler-GLF grain elevator site. There are also plans to build luxury apartments at the site of the former Erie Freight House farther up the street.
And the Buffalo Scholastic Rowing Association has broken ground on a new boathouse.
Carl Paladino, the largest landowner on the street with more than 10 acres on both sides, has said in the past he was eager to build housing on Ohio after accumulating property in the area for decades. But he also has expressed a reluctance while the Commodore Perry public housing complex, which is operated by the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority blocks away, remains in a state of neglect.
Higgins said the Ohio Street parkway, even with a 30-mph speed limit, is part of a mix that can be an alternative to the Skyway, which the Democratic congressman has long called for being torn down.
“The infrastructure of the city was built for a population twice the size it is now,” Higgins said. “There are secondary roads that could provide alternatives to the Skyway, which I don’t think have been fully explored yet. One is Ohio, the other is South Park Avenue. Another is a widened Thruway. These are all things that we point to to state officials in our discussions about the wisdom of pursuing alternatives to the Skyway.”
Federal Highway Administration funds accounted for $8.1 million of the money for the Ohio Street makeover, with $2 million coming from the New York Power Authority relicensing settlement through Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp., and $1.2 million from the City of Buffalo.